Friday, March 25, 2011

Busy . . . you know, like a bee.

I don't know how so much time has flown by since my last post! It does fly here, though - seems like all of a sudden I got crazy-busy every day. But, unlike home, it's crazy-busy actually being a musician, so I am in fact loving it. :)

Last post, we were in the middle of Giselle performances (which feels like a million years ago!) . . .

After the second performance of Giselle, I went with two friends (violinists from the orchestra) to a party - my first here! It was such a blast! It was a birthday party, and the guy with said birthday was a fireman, so the party was on the roof of the fire house. It was beautiful, with lots of people, food, drinks, and dancing. And at some point (remember the drinks part?), my friends and I ended up playing some improvised trios. To be sitting with a bunch of new friends on a warm night and look up at the upside-down constellations . . . well, I am a lucky girl.

Some interesting things regarding eating/drinking at the party: I tried some cow tongue (on a piece of bread), which actually wasn't bad. When hanging out with close friends, the custom here is to share a cup. So you take a few sips of beer and pass it on. When empty, it gets refilled and resumes rotation. There are pros and cons to this.

- After a few beers, I normally tend to start just holding the cup and forgetting to drink. The people waiting helped me remember it was in my hand.
- At the end of the party, there were like 11 plastic cups to clean up instead of 200. This is good from both the cleaning up angle and an environmental angle.

- It is not at all possible to keep track of how much you drink, or even to have a reasonable estimate.
- I'm pretty sure this is where I got sick. We'll get back to this in a bit.

Because we had another concert the next afternoon, we had only planned to stay for a few hours. However, when we discovered our ride home passed out drunk face-down on the concrete floor, we resigned ourselves to dancing all night. Rough life, right?

Morning came, and eventually got home just fine in the end. Here's a pic watching the sun come up from the roof of the fire station:

Fortunately, the final performance of Giselle went well despite the lack of sleep. This is after the final performance, with my friend Aldo.

See? When you're good and patient, you get pictures. :)

Well, with the combination lack of sleep and sharing a beer cup with at least five other people, I woke up on Monday with a cold. I suppose if I must wake up feeling like my head is going to implode, my day off is a good day to do it. Still, lame-sauce. And it's weird to have a head cold when it's in the 90s every day. Just seems wrong. Anyway, staying in bed all day and drinking lots of water got me better enough to make the rest of the week bearable, so moving on . . .

Tuesday, we began rehearsing Lohengrin. Aaaaaaand we will continue this in a new post.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What a week!

Sorry for the long silence, but it's been a crazy week! Time to fill you in. :)

Last Tuesday was my first time teaching at the university, and what a long day it was. Left the house at 7, walked an hour to rehearsal (we were at the concert venue this week, which is about half as far as our normal rehearsal space). 2-hr practice, 2.5-hr rehearsal, then I booked it out to San Lorenzo via two buses, where I ran in just in time for my first student.

I have six students at the university. The first one walked in and started playing Doppler's Hungarian Pastoral Fantasie (a piece I played in college, for the non-flute-playing peeps who read this) from memory - then told me this was his very first flute lesson. ?!?!?! Ok - this is going to be fun. His sound is great, he's very musical, he has a real love for the flute and works very hard. If he got this far listening to recordings on his own, I imagine we're going to be able to do some great stuff this semester. Also, surprise, he's one of the students who attended my masterclass when I was here last summer(US)/winter (PY) in another town, so that was kind of fun.

After that, it became apparent that they have scheduled my students for me in descending order of ability, and by the time I got to the last one, she had never even opened the flute case before. We spent the lesson trying to get consistent at making a sound on the headjoint and talked about how to put the instrument together.

So, my six students are at six clearly different levels of playing. It's fun, but kind of exhausting! Plus, of course I forgot my dictionary that day, and only one of my students speaks any English - argh! I'm sure it will be a little easier to explain things when I have some more words to pick from. Still, I feel like I got a good start with everybody, and they're all really eager and open. This is only the second year that they've had flute students at the school, so everything's really new - only one of my students has ever had another teacher.

One more note about the lessons - since I didn't have my dictionary, sometimes I would get a little frustrated with not being able to remember a word. They were all very patient, but in particular one of them would always just laugh a little bit and say, "Tranquila, Profe!," which always just make me laugh. They all call me Profe, short for Profesora, and "tranquila" is a word they use to describe lots of aspects of life here - basically "chill" or "calm".

Anyway. Lessons are over, I leave the schools - mind you, at this point I've been running non-stop for nine hours, I haven't had time to eat anything, and my brain is fried from four hours of teaching very disparate students in a language I'm not good at. What happens next?

I get on the wrong bus.

There are a lot of different varieties of colors of buses here. In the last month, I've only ever seen one green one - 56. Well, it turns out that there are actually at least two green buses. To get home from San Lorenzo, I need to take the 26 or the 56. Now, the first time I went to the school, I took the 26 home, so when the bus that I thought was the 56 started to take a different route, I didn't worry at first. After an hour, I realized that we were in quite a different place than we should be - then I caught the reflection of the bus in a store window as we sat in some traffic and realized what was up. I hopped on the bus, and fortunately we were in an area where I recognized some street names. So I started off in the general direction of my house, and after another 2.5 hours of walking finally made it back home! So, Tuesday: 4 hours of teaching, 3.5 hours of walking, 2.5 hours of rehearsal, 2 hours of practice, 2 hours of bus time, 0 time for relaxing or eating. Ack! At least it didn't rain on me. Still, it was a good day, and I had a great time meeting my students. Next week, when rehearsal gets out at a normal time from the normal place, I remember my dictionary, and I take the right bus home, things should go much more smoothly.

As I was leaving rehearsal on Wednesday, one of the violinists came up and said that she had a job interview coming up and that she would like to practice her English. Of course I was happy to help, and since I didn't have any plans that afternoon, I headed off to lunch with her and one of her friends, another violinist. Well, we actually had a blast and the three of us ended up sitting around talking for seven hours! It was so much fun, and I was so happy to really get to know some people here outside of my house and my job. We talked about all sorts of things, and sort of switched back and forth between English practice for them and Spanish tutoring for me (although we did speak more English, since my Spanish is much worse than their English). We were always in the dictionary teaching each other words and telling stories - it was awesome. They're such sweet girls and we were all just laughing and laughing. It was a great unexpected day.

Then Thursday flew by in the blink of an eye, and Friday was our first concert! Well, our first "real" concert - in the theater, in Asuncion, with serious music, etc. The little run-out tour from a few weeks ago doesn't count. :) It went really well - definitely not perfect, but one of the orchestra's best run-throughs by a long shot. With everybody concentrating, a lot of the problems magically disappeared. (Ok, guys - just do that all the time and imagine how good we could be!!!) But anyway, I was happy with our performance and enjoyed playing. And I couldn't see the dancers, obviously, but the audience seemed to enjoy it.

After the concert, I left with one of my friends from the other day - her aunt had come to the concert and lives pretty close to me, so they offered me a ride home since the buses don't run late. As we were leaving, the Maestro's assistant came running out of the theater to catch up with us. I didn't understand everything he said, but he gave me a rose from the Maestro - the only rose from the mixed bunch of flowers that he had received after the performance. The Maestro is sort of shy and we haven't talked much except when I had some musical questions, so I was really surprised. It was such a sweet gesture! Lovely end to a great night.

We play the ballet again tonight and Sunday afternoon, then start rehearsing Wagner's opera Lohengrin on Monday! The music is a lot more complicated and the show is a lot longer, but my part is much less exposed - Giselle, the ballet, seems like it has a big flute solo every other page, whereas in Lohengrin I mostly get to just blend into the texture and enjoy the ride.

What a long and crazy and awesome week it's been!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Heroes' Day

Yesterday, March 1, was a major holiday here: Heroes' Day. This celebrates the end of the Triple Alliance War, which was Paraguay v. Argentina/Brazil/Uruguay. Anybody want to guess how that one went? Well, the short version is that it was the deadliest war in modern South American history. Paraguay lost 60-70 percent of its population, most of them men. In the most devastated parts of the country, women outnumbered men 20 to 1 by the end of the conflict.

You can basically chalk this mess up to one crazy expansionist/isolationist dictator Francisco Solano Lopez, a fact that is confusingly (to me) overlooked in that the holiday primarily celebrates Solano Lopez, who is considered a national hero, as well as those who died in the war. (Ah - revisionist history, for the win.) Think of it as Veteran's Day with a Latin-American-dictatorial twist.

You can thank Wikipedia for most of this info, because I sure didn't understand much of the speeches that were happening! The big plaza area downtown was filled with flags and people and all the military branches in dress uniforms, really pretty fun. I shook hands with some bigwigs, and a few of us from the orchestra played with a singer in front of the Pantheon of the Heroes, which is a gorgeous building:

Also - Americans who can't learn the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, shame on you. Get a load of the Paraguayan anthem:

Paraguayans: Republic or Death!
Our spirit gave us liberty
Neither oppressors nor slaves exist
Where union and equality reign.

The peoples of the Americas, unfortunately,
Were oppressed for three centuries by a scepter
But one magnificent day surging forth,
"Enough!", it said, and broke the scepter.
Our fathers, grandiose in battle,
Showed their martial glory;
And after smashing the august diadem,
Raised the triumphal cap.

A new Rome, the Fatherland shall proudly display
Two leaders of name and valor
Who, rivals, like Romulus and Remus
Divided government and power.
Long years, during which Phoebus in the clouds
Saw darken the pearl of the South,
Today a grand hero appears
Raising up again her glory and virtue...

Europe and the world salute her with applause
And also acclaim
Invincible bastion of heroism,
Magnificent Eden of riches.
(But) when discord rumbled all around
Which fatally devoured other Peoples,
Paraguayans, the sacred ground
Was covered by an angel with its wings.

Oh, how pure, of laurel girded
Sweet Fatherland, in this manner you show yourself.
In your ensign one sees the colors
Of sapphire, diamond, and ruby.
In your coat of arms, which the Sun illuminates,
Under the cap, one sees the lion.
Double image of the strong and the free,
And of glories, the memory and crest.

From the tomb of vile feudalism
The national Deity rises free;
Oppressors, bend your knees!
Compatriots, entone the hymn!
Sound the cry, "Republic or death"!
Our breasts exhale it with faith,
And the mountains repeat its echoes
Like giants arising.

Our Fatherland defends liberty and justice;
Tyrants: listen!
The laws in its sacred charter
Will sustain its heroism in the fight.
Against the world, if the world opposes it,
If the world dares to insult her security,
Battling to avenge we shall know her
Or die embracing her.

Arise, oh People, your splendid sword
That strikes with sparkles of God,
There is no middle ground between free or slave
And an abyss divides the two.
In the gentle breezes the Hymn resounds,
Repeating with triumphal echo:
For the free, renowned glory!
For the Fatherland, immortal laurel!

And, yes, they do sing the WHOLE thing, with choruses. It's not quick. So next time you can't remember the words to the first of the four verses of the Star Spangled Banner (Did you know there even were three more verses? I didn't.), go ahead and feel a little inferior. Paraguayans: they're more patriotic than you.